Dear Brethren and Friends,
Greetings from Charlotte! This past weekend we had a truly outstanding “Family Weekend.” The unusual warmth, love and enthusiasm of the 667 brethren who were in attendance on the Sabbath was truly inspiring! Also, we were very grateful to celebrate the 22nd anniversary of this very Work! For on December 26, 1992, the Global Church of God held its first services in my home—with 19 people in attendance. Nearly 22 years later, in 2014, our Feast of Tabernacles attendance was almost 10,300! So we have much to be thankful for in our growth and in the unity and love that we have experienced for over 22 years! Uplifting fellowship was certainly experienced in the fine display of sportsmanship and energy put forth in the basketball games, the volleyball games and other forms of sports that were carried on by the young people throughout the entire day of Thursday.
Then, on Friday, some excellent Bible Studies and seminar-type lectures were given about issues facing younger and older married people, teens and singles. On the Sabbath, at services, God inspired me to give a sermon on “How To Walk With God.” At the end of the sermon, we played a beautiful recording of the song as sung by Mario Lanza. I had described how this very song inspired me when I first heard it in the film, The Student Prince. Although I have done this very imperfectly, I have tried to make this concept a theme of my life for many decades.
Brethren, in the tumultuous years just ahead of us, we will all need to genuinely “walk with God”—probably more than we have ever done. For the “little boy soldiers” of ISIS are being trained by this perverted organization to learn the details of how to behead other human beings and other vile practices. The scars on their minds may never be erased in this age. The increasing numbers of kidnappings, rapes and other instances of brutality experienced in the tribal warfare of Africa are going on over there right now as I write. Also, in a National Public Radio interview I heard just this morning, a woman from the Gaza Strip described the increasing hate and slaughter of the many hundreds of men, women and little children over there. Describing this, this woman stated emphatically: “This war will go on forever.”
We in God’s Church will soon be surrounded by situations where whites are killing blacks, blacks are killing whites, and almost no one truly loves and trusts people of other races or ethnic backgrounds. We will come to the place where increasing numbers of demons will be “set loose” and unleash truly powerful attitudes of hate and violence. Literally millions of people in Europe will become so deceived by Satan and his demons that they will literally “make war” against Christ Himself as He returns to this earth as King of kings! Remember, as I have explained a number of times, Revelation 17:12–14 makes this very clear. Those brainwashed young men in the coming army of the “Beast” will “make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, for He is Lord of lords and King of kings; and those who are with Him are called, chosen and faithful.” This very real “war” against God Himself—in the person of Jesus—will occur within the lifetimes of many of you! It will be a time like that described back in Genesis 6:5–10.
At that time, “Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart” (Genesis 6:5–6). At that time—as our time is becoming—men were so filled with hate and violence that God said, “I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth” (v. 7). But this time—instead of destroying mankind almost entirely—God will spare many millions if they are willing to find “grace” in the eyes of God (v. 8). For Noah and just seven other human beings were protected because: “Noah was a just man, perfect in his generations. Noah walked with God” (v. 9). For “walking with God” does not involve merely studying the Bible a “little bit” for inspiration or encouragement. It does not involve offering an occasional “sleepy time prayer.” It involves the surrender of the human heart and spirit to the true Creator God by giving one’s entire life to serving Him, interacting with Him and making Him and His will the very center of our lives!
Do you “walk with God” in this way?
As the world around us begins to come apart with increasing hate and violence—upset nations, people being killed, raped, tortured and utterly discouraged by the seeming hopelessness of our human situation—we who are called by God to understanding truly must “walk with God” to retain our sanity and to “make it” through these coming trials and tests. We must learn to genuinely believe God and to put our total trust in Him and in His inspired Word to achieve this spiritual growth. Our part is to “seek God” with all of our hearts. Remember that Jesus instructed us to do this very thing in the “Sermon on the Mount.” Jesus told us: “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matthew 6:33).
Again, God inspired Isaiah to tell us: “Seek the Lord while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near” (Isaiah 55:6). Sadly, not all will do as God instructs. So, God told our forefathers that a time will come when His people, facing distress, will realize their need for God—in some cases, realizing this for the very first time: “But from there you will seek the Lord your God, and you will find Him if you seek Him with all your heart and with all your soul. When you are in distress, and all these things come upon you in the latter days, when you turn to the Lord your God and obey His voice” (Deuteronomy 4:29–30).
Dear brethren, at such a time perhaps even some of us who have not been truly close to God, or some of our children, will begin to realize that we need to absolutely “cry out” to our Creator and ask for His mercy and His forgiveness, His guidance, His deliverance.
For those of us whom God is now calling, He will not “make us” obey Him. Rather, as we learn the reality of God and His ways, we must at least do our part to “seek” God and let Him know that we really do want His help and His guidance in the future so that our lives will finally amount to something.
Then, we will realize our need to “feed” on Christ by genuinely studying His Word—asking God fervently as we study to give us understanding and the strength to obey our Creator. We will learn to meditate as Jesus said, “He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who feeds on Me will live because of Me” (John 6:56–57).
We will learn the powerful understanding gained by sincere meditation—thinking deeply and consistently upon God’s way and how it applies to our lives. As King David, the “man after God’s own heart” expressed it, “I will meditate on Your precepts, and contemplate Your ways. I will delight myself in Your statutes; I will not forget Your word” (Psalm 119:15–16). And again David spoke: “My hands also I will lift up to Your commandments, which I love, and I will meditate on Your statutes” (Psalm 119:48).
Every one of us, dear brethren, needs to take time each week and perhaps each day to sit down and to meditate on how far we have come in our Christian life, what mistakes we are making, how we can change and do better, etc. Then we can “go deeper” in our understanding of God’s Word and how to “walk with God.”
Then we must learn to truly pour our hearts into our prayers! We should, as I have stated, literally “cry out” to God our Father. We should “talk to Him” and discuss our heart’s desires and dreams, our problems, our needs—as we would to a father. We must constantly commune with Him and pour out our hearts to Him. Please read and reread our very comprehensive booklet on Twelve Keys to Answered Prayer.
Dear brethren, each of us must also learn to use the “tool” of fasting. Remember, Jesus Christ indicated that His disciples would fast. Jesus Christ stated: “But the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast in those days” (Mark 2:20). Are you, personally, learning to fast on a regular basis as part of “walking with God” and making God more real in your own life?
Finally, to truly walk with God we must act on the Truth that Almighty God reveals to us. Remember the Apostle James’ inspiring warning: “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves” (James 1:22). So to genuinely “walk with God” we must act on all the knowledge and all the understanding God gives us. We must cry out for God’s help, pray fervently for God’s guidance and then be able to say as the Apostle Paul said: “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20, KJV).
Then, as the end of our life approaches, God help us to so seek Him and serve Him that He may be able to say of us—as He did the father of the faithful, Abraham: “for now I know that you fear God” (Genesis 22:12). You will have shown God repeatedly by “walking with God” in every part of your lives that you have truly surrendered to Him through Jesus Christ to live His life within every part of your lives. For you will have demonstrated this to Him clearly over a period of years by “walking with God.”
Brethren, as we prepare to observe the Days of Unleavened Bread, I want to mention something to you that has come up from time to time during my 62 years in the ministry of God’s Church. Most of you who are reading this know that Jesus Christ came to magnify the law, not to do away with it. He came to fill it to the full. This principle involves how we as Christians keep the Days of Unleavened Bread. We put leaven out of our homes during the Festival. We do not eat leavened bread; rather we eat unleavened bread (Exodus 12:15). Spiritually we strive to avoid vanity and the “leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy” (Luke 12:1).
Some have wondered, “Is it wrong to eat ‘puffy bread’ during the Days of Unleavened Bread if that puffiness came from a source other than yeast?” Please consider that, just as when Paul ruled on eating meat offered to idols, the principle can apply to this question. Why would any of us, during a time when we are called to eat only the unleavened, want to eat items made deliberately to have the “appearance” of being leavened? We do not need to go off into scientific debates over the ways items may become puffed up by agents other than active yeast. The principle we should apply is very simple. Just as we should avoid even the appearance of sin, we should during the Days of Unleavened Bread avoid eating bread products that are “puffed up” so as to resemble an item “puffed up” by the action of yeast.
Though Paul did not call it “sin” for the Corinthians to eat meat offered to idols, he counseled against it when it would be a source of controversy among the brethren. Indeed, even beyond the clear principle of shunning what is leavened, eating unleavened baked products that “appear” to be leavened would fall into the category of what Paul calls “lawful but unwise” (ref. 1 Corinthians 6:12), as doing so can take our attention away from the meaning of these days, as well as tempting brethren to judge (and misjudge) each other. This is not about examining every baked item and judging whether it is “too thick” or “too soft” to appear to be truly unleavened. It is about upholding a positive principle. During the upcoming Festival days, we are to eat the simple, flat, unleavened bread commanded by God, and in doing so we draw closer to our Savior as we are reminded to put sin entirely out of our lives.
Dear brethren, this problem of “what is leavened and what isn’t?” has kept coming up for decades. I was in a number of meetings back in the 1950s and 1960s discussing this question along with Mr. Armstrong and other leading ministers. Over the decades people keep having “technical” questions about this matter—often contradicting each other as well as the Church with their ideas. But Almighty God tells us in His Word that we are to follow the “traditions” which God’s true ministers have instituted in His Church under the leadership of the living Jesus Christ. For Christ is the “true Head” of His Church (Ephesians 1:22–23). These “traditions” are definitely not some new set of commandments or laws, but guidelines to help God’s Church be unified in carrying out the laws and ways of God taught in the Bible. Since Christ is the Head, He is responsible for guiding His true ministry in setting these true “traditions” in the right way.
Notice Paul’s inspired instructions on this: “Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle” (2 Thessalonians 2:15). So I call upon all of you—in the name of Jesus Christ—to understand and be loyal to the leadership Christ has put in His Church at this time.
Let us be together, brethren. Not always arguing and reasoning around on every technical point as though each one of us is qualified to set up our “own ways,” rather than working together under the leadership of Christ and His ministry in these matters. So I trust that all of you—as loyal members of the Church of God—will respond loyally to this tradition and be unified in the way we carry out God’s instruction to put leaven out of our lives during the Days of Unleavened Bread. May God guide and bless you all who want to be fully cooperative as a member of the “team” which Christ is preparing to be those kings and priests in Tomorrow’s World. Let us learn now to “walk with God” even in this part of our lives as Christ’s Kingdom swiftly approaches.
As this confused age comes ever closer to its close, may God grant more of His Spirit to us as we learn to truly “seek Him” with all our hearts. As all of us grow older—and have gone through more trials and tests and have demonstrated our loyalty to God and His government—I pray that God will continue to strengthen us and encourage us and inspire us by pouring out more of His Spirit that we can truly have an impact on this very sick world. So let us do all that we can to show God that we mean it by serving Him with genuine love and loyalty through the rest of our lives. Then, as God promises, our lives will continue forever in the soon-coming Kingdom of God to be set up under the living Jesus Christ.
In Christian love,